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Students attend free ‘Hidden Figures’ screening

F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette-Mail photos
Students and their families from across the area were treated to a free screening of “Hidden Figures” at the Park Place Stadium Cinemas in Charleston. The main character of the movie is based on West Virginia native and West Virginia State graduate Katherine Johnson.
The private screening of the movie was sponsored by the African American Philanthropy in Action, a special initiative of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.

Hundreds of students from the Kanawha Valley and their parents came to Charleston’s Park Place Stadiums Cinema on Saturday for a special viewing of “Hidden Figures,” the biographical drama that tells the story of how three African-American women helped send the first American man into space.

In the movie, audiences meet White Sulphur Springs native Katherine Johnson, who attended West Virginia State College and West Virginia University and who would later win the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Dozens of young girls and boys filed into the theater Saturday afternoon, escaping a light drizzle of rain just outside. Their parents, some of whom are graduates of the same college Johnson attended, were just as excited.

Sue Hines brought her two granddaughters to see the movie.

“I thought it was very educational,” Hines said after the movie. “It shows how far we’ve came, and it’s letting the youth know that they can go even farther.”

Hines said she hoped her two granddaughters, Jayla Brown, 9, and Navaeh Motley, 10, would see the movie and be inspired to grow up and succeed in life, to push their limits to do great things.

“Can you imagine what it would do for the African-American community, and others, too, to know that they can make it?” Hines said. “It just gives you that, ‘I can do anything,’ mentality.”

The private screening of the movie was sponsored by the African American Philanthropy in Action, a special initiative of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation. Students got free admission to the movie and listened to a welcoming speech from WVSU President Anthony Jenkins.

“I liked it because of how they were the ones who did the math,” Jayla said.

Jayla isn’t alone. Olivia Jeffries is an 18-year-old senior at South Charleston High School. She’s set to graduate this year, and she has big plans for the future.

When Jeffries grows up, she said she’d like to work as either a sports broadcaster or as a dental hygienist.

“I thought the movie was really good,” Jeffries said, smiling. “It showed a lot of how racism was back then and how they fought for what they wanted.”

The movie takes audiences back to the 1960s, right in the thick of the civil rights movement. The movie, which is based on a book by Margaret Lee Shetterly, shows the brilliant minds of three African-American women. Though they could do they same work as white men working at NASA, they struggled to receive the same level of respect and job opportunities.

“It’s not about race, it’s about just putting your foot forward,” Hines said. “Don’t worry about the past, just keep moving.”

Reach Jake Jarvis at 304-348-7939,

jake.jarvis@wvgazettemail.com, Facebook.com/newsroomjake or follow @NewsroomJake on Twitter.

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